Blowing Off Steam About Love and Respect

I need to blow off some steam. Some stuff has been bugging me for a while.  And in some ways, even writing this is making me guilty of what I am so deeply saddened and frustrated by.  For that, I ask God to search my heart for my core beliefs and motives,  that can be so hard to describe in words.  I hope I make sense with this and come from a place that pleases Him.

I’m a fairly conservative Christian,  though I don’t consider myself to be an ‘extremist’ – I don’t believe extremism is beneficial for anything. (Matthew 6:1…”Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.”… ‘Appearances’, and not compassion, scream hypocrisy, and push people away from us- and the chance to share Jesus….Matthew 5:22 talks about anger, and the emotions that destroy relationships and spirituality – we’re to be in control of our actions, but our thoughts can also degrade our relationships spiritually… Life Application Bible notes).

It’s one thing to have a firm belief in God and His Word, and quite another to use it as a weapon against those who are either struggling, or have different beliefs- or are not Believers at all.   Nothing about God is  a weapon for destruction.  We’re instructed that our relationship with God is to be used for GOOD, not divisiveness.  Divisiveness is a tool of Satan.  James 3:5 “Likewise, consider the tongue as a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”  And it can be incredibly difficult to figure out how to love the sinner and hate the sin, and do it from a place of love and compassion for the person, without being judgmental.

Every week there is something else in the media (not from God) that turns on the “judgement switch” of a lot of Christians… and that’s not our job as Christians. I see it in people I know,  people I don’t know in articles and interviews, and I see it in myself at times, and must stop and ask God to help me deal with the situation in a way that pleases Him. I’m not always very good at that.  Every time ‘WE’ judge ‘the other side’, we do *exactly* what we accuse ‘them’ of doing.  I’m so tired of it!  I strongly believe in having a solid core belief system, and mine happens to be that of a conservative Christian. My goal from my heart is that  I become stronger with the  characteristics of a Biblical Christian (not humanly manufactured judgement spewers).   Living the Fruit of the Spirit is my daily goal (and I fail regularly)  😦  … Galatians 5:22… “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  When I disagree with someone, or feel I’m not being heard or treated fairly, those are the responses I am to have.  And it ain’t easy!

I have enough of my own character defects to work on to have ANY right to call out someone else.  Even if something is in the Bible as sin (and we are ALL sinners), I can only live and grow my own relationship with Jesus.  Even Jesus didn’t come to point fingers and judge- He came to save us; judgement will come at its due time, only known by God.   If Christians are so busy worrying about the actions/thoughts/beliefs of someone else, who is left to love them to the Lord?  Matthew 7 is a great chapter on judgement and forgiveness.

We have all sinned (Romans 3:23).  There is no hierarchy of sin.    I believe we  ALL need Jesus- every single day for our OWN spiritual lives. I understand that not everybody believes that- and God gave us free will to believe or not, so who am I to demand more than God? He wants genuine believers- not robotic, loveless stalkers!   We are commanded to go into the world and spread the word of God… How can we do that if we’re so busy condemning others?  Romans 12:18… “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”   Salvation, and a relationship with God is a choice- we can’t earn it, we can’t lose it… but we must sincerely desire and choose it.  And I can only choose for myself.

Does that mean we condone everything? Of course not !  But we aren’t responsible for the actions and beliefs of others- and if we’re so busy being pious and judgmental, who is left to share the Gospel?  We are known by our actions first.  And there are many Christians who send non-believers running for the hills from the hypocrisy and absolute intolerance of various groups of people, or those who even believe differently. Some send ME running for the ‘hills’, and we’re supposed to believe the same thing !
There is not one person on this planet who can truly know what is in the heart of someone else- their struggles, pain, frustrations, BELIEFS, etc.  Christians are generally taught to appear like everything is wonderful- which is VERY hard to do 24/7.  And it’s disingenuous.  God gave us emotions.  But we do have to be careful about not directing them AT others, and instead using them to encourage and uplift others.   ‘Loathing’ is not from God.  Constant mockery, negative comments, and complaining are in direct contrast to what we are told to do in Philippians 2: 14-16… “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God , without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of Life- in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.”  That’s hard !  But it lets me know that getting involved in negative ‘conversations’ isn’t anything I’m doing to praise God.  It’s purely self-serving when it’s not done out of love, and to offer something positive and encouraging.
I believe that there are a lot of Christians who truly love the Lord, and are still struggling with various issues.  When I worked drug and alcohol rehab, we saw a LOT of Christians… and had a special sub-group of recovery options for them in addition to the traditional  12-step treatment (which is completely spiritually based, and strongly reflective of the Sermon on The Mount).  Christians are not immune from continuing to (or starting another)  sin; for some it’s easier than other to ‘reform’ and/or recover. Some have condemned themselves much more than anybody else could- and are afraid God couldn’t possibly want anything to do with them. (So let’s throw some disdain their way, eh?) And some have lived their entire lives believing that they are guilty of something that was done TO them.
I’m so glad that the  God I know is more loving and forgiving than many of my fellow Christians- known personally or not. And HE knows MY heart!  He has access to the secret corners of my being, and loves me anyway!     Other humans only know what they assume- and that is dangerous ground for basing a relationship (or opinion) with anybody.   John 8: 2-11 is an outstanding example of how Jesus dealt with a woman accused of sexual sins.  He came from a place of love.
I spent many years with severe eating disorders –  clear abuse of the body God gave me, and where the Bible says the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians.  I was living in a state of daily sin by focusing on the flesh– and yet I still loved God deeply, and dealt with the shame of not living fully for Him when I was focused on something so destructive, and felt so stuck.  It’s painful to see Christians assume that because someone is ‘pro’ this or that, or in some sort of addiction (food, drugs, alcohol, etc.)  that they aren’t Believers.  “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”… remember that one?   I’ve met a lot of Christian addicts (recovering, and  just going through detox)… some of the most solid Christians I’ve ever met.   Being a Christian never removes the fact that we’re still human.  We fail. We get up. We move on. And sometimes (a lot of times) we fail again, with the assurance of a loving God catching us in His arms.
Some (a lot of ? ) folks do appear to be clearly anti-Christian.  There’s someone on the news, other TV shows, radio, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  pretty much daily that come  only to verbally mock and shun Christians.  (one program last night had me fairly heated !). God has that covered !  We’ve been told about those who persecute Christians- it’s been going on for a couple of thousands of years now !   And it’s not our fight.  God will take care of those who harass His Children in due time.  I find comfort in that- I don’t have to waste time being angry or even hateful !  I can try and find things to be thankful for.  We’re instructed to be thankful in ALL things.  We’re instructed to have a very specific mindset about our ‘enemies’. ****  It is so much more freeing to not be worn down by things that I have no control over, that will be dealt with by God in HIS timing, and to look at the wonderful things I’ve been blessed with- however great or small… they are more uplifting than the negative people and situations :
****1 Peter 3:9…” Do not repay evil with evil, or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  
Matthew 5:44… “But I command you all, love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.”
Romans 12:14… “Invoke blessings on your persecutors, blessings- not curses.”
1 Peter 3:15…”But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for evil.”    Hmm… ‘in your hearts’ (don’t need a billboard).  Gentleness and respect…. (wow- don’t see much of that).  Is it good or evil to single out assorted ‘hot topics’ and make them a thermometer of morality and gauge of someone else’s heart?  Or would it be more in keeping with Jesus, being the definition of love, to reach out and show compassion?  I don’t have to agree with anybody to  be kind to them.
I can anticipate some who read this getting upset that I’m not focusing on pointing out  specific ‘hot topic’  sins of others  that they feel are clearly stated in the Bible.  I’m really not interested in pointing out someone else’s sin nearly as much as I am showing them the love that Jesus came to show us; the Holy Spirit  will convict someone of sin- I’m not that powerful, so why not show love and compassion?  I’m not always good at it- but that is my goal.   When anything comes across as hate, it will drive someone away who God loves, and wants a relationship with.  That’s not being obedient.  I don’t have to change my beliefs to show someone else what I believe- and I don’t have to do it with condescension or spite.  Neither of those are from God.  I don’t have to jump on every bandwagon that comes along to ‘prove a point’.  I know what I believe… I don’t have to repeatedly and frequently drive the point into the skulls of anyone I encounter.  My friends know what I believe, and IF someone asks me, I will aim for the gentle and respectful explanation.  🙂
Sometimes, there are people who will only know one or two ‘known’ Christians… do you want to show someone the love of God, or tear them down by talking about specific sins?  We are all sinners, and Jesus came for all of us.  There are no prerequisites for loving Jesus.  He takes us as we are.  All of us.  As. We. Are.  The miracles of being new creations happens after someone discovers Jesus, and the ultimate meaning of love.
So, what is my hope that I show people?  It’s very clear…  🙂  And it’s an ongoing process.  So, I’m really not at liberty to judge someone else.  I’ve got my own work to do.
I Corinthians 13:4-8a….”Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and New Year filled with peace, compassion, and joy of knowing that God supplies all of our needs.

 

 

 

Numbnuts Had Parole Denied

I got a bit of good news this morning. Actually, it’s a lot of good news. The man who raped me was denied parole by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles yesterday. The next parole review will be August 2015 and I’ll be notified about 4 months before that so I can send my stack of reasons why he shouldn’t be let loose on a civilized society (well those of us who are civilized anyway). Again. I can ask friends and family to send another bunch of their reasons to keeping Carl Edward Chambers locked up. The next mandatory release date is in 20 years. He got a 60 year sentence, and because of the laws at the time of his sentencing, he has these ‘mandatory’ release dates. Until then, he gets ‘reviewed’ every three years.  I just get back into a routine of not thinking about him roaming the streets, and that possibility comes into play again.  He had to serve the first 20 years without any chance of parole, but after that it’s been a roller coaster.

I was a very young 23 year old in 1987 when the rape happened. I didn’t have a clue about evil people- or about people who were so damaged that they committed crimes like Chambers did.  There was little doubt among the officers who investigated the rape that murder was the goal that day.  I knew who he was, where he lived, and that he’d been in prison (the naive part of me didn’t have a clue why he’d been in prison, or what ‘Huntsville’ Texas prison really was- a farm for the worst of the worst). With me dead, he would have had access to everything in my apartment and my car. He would have been long gone by the time I’d been noticed missing. I was still off of work from a back injury, so it could have been a week or more.  Probably when I started to stink up the place, bothering the neighbors.

I fight to keep him locked up because of what he did to me (other blog posts go into more detail, and there are more details to come, in due time). But I also feel he should serve as much as he agreed to when he plead guilty part way through the trial. He heard me testify, and whoops- time to change his plea from not guilty to guilty.  How often does that  happen?  Then he agreed to the equivalent of a life sentence, or 60 years (I wouldn’t accept less than that in the plea bargain, and was ready to let the judge have at it). To me that either shows that he’s incredibly stupid, or there’s a shred of conscience in there somewhere.  His sister (mom of the baby I took care of, and how I was introduced to the monster) even testified on the side of the prosecution; she had told me that he’d always been the ‘black sheep’ of the family.  I’m thinking more along the lines of black heart. Cold. Hard.  She was a sweet kid with a baby.  She knew nothing about what he was capable of; his prior offenses were violent, but not to the point of actually physically hurting someone. He tore me up.

And yet, there’s also part of me that wonders what in the world happened to him to make him the way he turned out.  That’s not in any way condoning what he did, or making him less responsible. But I do wonder. The other siblings weren’t felons (at least then; no clue now- but the sister I knew was a sweet kid struggling to make a life for her baby).  I’ve forgiven him- again, that doesn’t erase culpability. It just keeps my life from being all about him, and how to get even.  There is no way for him to give me that day back, or undo what he did to me.  It’s in God’s hands…He’s got MUCH more at His disposal for punishment than I do.  Frees up my head not to be mad all the time.  Did Chambers alter my life forever? Yep.  But he can’t do anything to take it back.  An apology would be nice, but I don’t think I’d ever trust that it was genuine, so why bother?

I do wish I’d been taught that I had the right not to help someone who seemed potentially harmful, or gave me knots in my stomach.  I didn’t feel that I had that right- I was taught to help my neighbors, and ‘neighbors’ meant everyone.  I wasn’t taught to think through what I knew about someone (no matter how minimal) and base a safe decision on that.  That was a very hard lesson to learn- and it didn’t have to be that way.  Christian parents and youth leaders need to be teaching their charges that it’s OK to stay safe; it’s not a sin to avoid being assaulted or murdered. They need to know how  to identify potentially harmful situations.  God gave us brains; they need to be used.

Well, now I’m off the hook for another 31 months, until I get the next letter telling me the next review is coming.  And I’ll cry, and relive parts of the rape that get shelved periodically.  I’ll talk to another lead voter on the parole board (this one was very kind; I can’t imagine having that job). But I’m never really ‘done’ with the rape, or Chambers.  I never forget.  I never had the life I thought I’d have (married, kids, house with a dog… I did get the dog).  I never let anybody touch me after that, and was a virgin before (my beliefs are that sex comes after the wedding).  My life became abnormal.  I don’t think I’ve been all that abnormal, but  I missed a lot.  As I get older, that sinks in more.

But I still believe that it happened for a reason. I don’t believe God ‘made’ it happen, but it can be used for good.  I’m still figuring all of that out (so I’m a bit slow).  If it can’t be used to help someone else, then it’s for nothing. I can’t allow that- so I still muddle around in my own head, searching for ways to be of use through this. Chambers can’t win this one.  I can’t let him. He took enough without my permission…this is on me.

Forgiveness

It’s not about the other guy. It’s not about the person who has caused pain. It doesn’t mean that ‘presto’, everything is OK about what happened.  It doesn’t mean you condone anything that happened to you. It doesn’t mean you will ever have that person in your life. It doesn’t mean you go on as if nothing happened.  It doesn’t mean that you have to deny your feelings about what they did. It doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t mean you have to do it perfectly all at once.

Forgiveness means you don’t let that person continue to run your life through frequent thoughts about them.   It means that you let go of wanting more revenge. It means you let God have the final say in how that person is judged.  It is an act of obedience as described in Matthew 7 (Bible). It’s about the relationship you have with God, not the perpetrator.  It means that you can turn over the feeling that the perpetrator stole your life.

Forgiveness is not a feeling- it is an action and choice.  The feelings come later. Forgiveness takes the person who hurt you, and moves them out of the forefront of your life. Forgiveness allows you to move forward.  It takes the painful events and people and puts them where they belong…in the past.  🙂

But first, have you forgiven yourself for anything you’ve done to impede your life?